Despite rumors indicating that Southwest Airlines was considering alternatives to the 737, the only aircraft type it operates, the Dallas-based airline has reaffirmed its commitment to the type with an order for 100 additional Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. The new order makes it possible that Boeing will deliver more than 600 MAX jets to Southwest through 2031, and puts to rest a suggestion that Southwest could supplement its 737s with Airbus A220s.
“Southwest Airlines has been operating the Boeing 737 series for nearly 50 years, and the aircraft has made significant contributions to our unparalleled success. Today’s commitment to the 737 MAX solidifies our continued appreciation for the aircraft and confirms our plans to offer the Boeing 737 series of aircraft to our Employees and Customers for years to come,” said Gary Kelly, Southwest’s chairman and CEO. “We are proud to continue our tradition of being the world’s largest operator of an all-Boeing fleet.” Southwest currently operates 506 of the 737-700s (seating 143), 207 of the 737-800s (175 seats), and 34 of the 737 MAX-8 models (also 175 seats).
According to Boeing, “the new purchase agreement takes Southwest’s order book to 200 737-7s and 180 737-8s, more than 30 of which have already been delivered. Southwest will also have 270 options for either of the two models, taking the carrier’s direct-buy commitment to more than 600 airplanes. The airline also plans additional 737 MAX jets through third-party lessors.” Southwest was forced to find additional aircraft after the MAX was grounded in March 2019, but the following travel slowdown related to the coronavirus eased the need for replacement aircraft. In the interim and waiting for the MAX to be returned to service, Southwest is said to have considered other options from Airbus, though that would mean having to change its training and aircraft-support structure to include different types.
“Southwest Airlines has long been a leader and bellwether for the airline industry and this order is a big vote of confidence for commercial air travel. As vaccine distribution continues to pick-up, people are returning to the skies and fueling hopes for a full recovery and renewed growth across our industry,” said Stan Deal, president and CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “We are deeply honored by Southwest’s continuing trust in Boeing and the 737. Their fleet decision today brings more stability for our biggest commercial program and will ensure that our entire 737 family will be building new airplanes for Southwest for years to come.”